Sunday, May 6, 2018

Providence by Caroline Kepnes

In a small New Hampshire town, Jon and Chloe were best friends in high school, on the way for their relationship to become something more. Then, Jon was kidnapped by a substitute teacher when he was taking a shortcut through the woods to school. Chloe is frantic and eventually rebels when no one seems to care. Eventually, she returns to her popular friends and acts like everything is normal. Four years later, Jon wakes up in a mall basement with no memory at all of the time elapsed. He finds that he somehow hurts people by being near them and runs away until he can get a handle on the power after he kills someone. Chloe goes on to be a successful artist and a detective named Eggs starts to follow mysterious heart attack deaths with interest. Will Jon ever have a normal life or will his crimes catch up with him before that can happen?

Providence is a  much different book than Kepnes' previous two book, You and Hidden Bodies. Some fans of those books are going to be disappointed with a Lovecraftian, supernatural story. However, the mutual obsession between Jon and Chloe brings in that intense point of view that she did so well. I love supernatural books, so this wasn't an issue for me. The plot has a lot of positive elements. I can't help but feel for Jon, abused by others as a child, kidnapped, robbed of four years of his life, and saddled with toxic powers to those around him. The Lovecraftian elements are well done and friendly to those not familiar with his work. Passages from The Dunwich Horror are provided for context and integrated into the story as Jon's obsession because it was the only thing left by his captor. His actual powers are mysterious for much of the book, but make sense and something I haven't seen before. I also enjoyed how unhinged Jon became nearing the end of the book.

Unfortunately, I had numerous problems with the book as well. First, the book plods along and my interest phased in and out as it went. Second, Chloe is always defined by Jon and never really moves on unless it's to a toxic ex from high school. She never seems to know how to survive alone or find someone completely outside of her hometown and her trauma. It was incredibly frustrating to witness because of her potential and talent for art. Third, the way Chloe treated Jon when they were teens was pretty awful. She would hang out with him and treat him nice alone and then act like she didn't know him in front of popular people. She would never call anyone out for teasing or bullying him and seemed to just be using him. Fourth, so much would have been solved with a simple phone call, text, or email from Jon to Chloe.

Providence is an interesting novel that combines Lovecraftian horror with a mystery thriller. It's a bit out of the box for Kepnes and I enjoyed it about as much as her You series. Even though I have mixed feelings about most of her books, I enjoy the unique ideas she brings to her novels. I would still be curious to read whatever new releases she comes out with, particularly if it has a more fantasy or horror angle.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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